Understanding Import Charges

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Importing a car from the UK to Ireland involves more than just finding the right vehicle. It also requires a comprehensive understanding of the charges that come with the importation process. Value Added Tax (VAT) and Vehicle Registration Tax (VRT) are two key components that must be considered when calculating the total cost of importing a car from the UK. Here, we will look into the details of these charges and provide valuable insights to help you navigate the financial aspects of importing a car into Ireland.


Value Added Tax (VAT)

VAT is a consumption tax applied to the purchase price of most goods and services in many countries, including Ireland. When importing a car from the UK, VAT is an important consideration that affects the overall cost of the vehicle. The current standard VAT rate applied to cars in Ireland is 23%.


Calculating VAT for UK Car Imports

The VAT calculation for UK car imports into Ireland involves a few essential steps. Firstly, you need to determine the value of the vehicle. This includes the purchase price, any additional fees paid during the import process, and the cost of transportation to Ireland. Once the value is established, the VAT is calculated by applying the applicable rate to this total value.


It is worth noting that VAT is payable on the total value of the car, including any import charges, so it is important to accurately calculate all associated costs to avoid any unexpected financial implications. An online VAT & Customs Duty Calculator can be useful in estimating these costs before purchasing. 


Vehicle Registration Tax (VRT)

VRT is a tax applied to vehicles entering the Irish market and is based on factors such as the car's value, CO2 emissions, engine size, additional equipment and so on. Importing a car from the UK means that VRT will be applicable, and it is essential to understand how this tax is calculated before deciding to import a car.


Calculating VRT for UK Car Imports

VRT is calculated based on the Open Market Selling Price (OMSP), which is the price the vehicle would typically sell for in the Irish market. This price is determined by The Revenue Commissioners and takes into account factors such as age, mileage, and overall condition of the vehicle.


To calculate VRT, you need to determine the OMSP and then apply the appropriate VRT rates, which vary depending on the vehicle's CO2 emissions and engine size. A simple and effective way to estimate VRT costs is to use an online VRT calculator such as the one found here. It is important to note that VRT is an additional cost on top of the purchase price and VAT, making it a significant factor to consider when importing a car to Ireland.


VAT and VRT Relief and Exemptions

In limited circumstances, you may be eligible for relief from VRT and VAT when importing a car to Ireland. In cases such as: 


  • Returning Irish Residents: If you are an Irish resident returning to Ireland after residing in another country for at least one year, you may be eligible for VAT and VRT relief on your personal vehicle. To qualify, you must have owned and used the vehicle abroad for at least six months and the vehicle must have covered at least 6,000 km prior to import. This relief applies to both new and used vehicles.


  • Commercial Imports: For commercial vehicles, such as vans or trucks, different rules apply. VAT relief may be available if the vehicle is purchased from a VAT-registered supplier within the EU. This exemption allows for the acquisition of the vehicle without paying VAT upfront, with the VAT accounted for through the reverse charge mechanism. However, it's important to comply with the relevant conditions and procedures to benefit from this relief.


  • Other Exemptions: Certain vehicles may qualify for additional exemptions or reduced rates. Electric vehicles (EVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) may be eligible for reduced VRT rates or exemptions as part of the Irish government's efforts to promote sustainable transportation. Similarly, vehicles modified for disability access may also be eligible for relief or exemptions.


Seeking Professional Advice

Calculating VAT and VRT accurately can be a complex task, especially considering the various factors involved in determining the applicable rates. It is recommended to seek professional advice from customs agents or tax experts who specialise in car imports or use an online estimator tool. They can assist in accurately calculating the import charges, ensuring compliance with regulations, and maximising any available exemptions or relief.


When importing a car from the UK to Ireland, understanding the import charges of VAT and VRT is essential for an accurate assessment of the costs involved. It is important to fully factor in these charges when considering the financial viability of importing a UK or Northern Ireland registered car. Along with the financial aspect of the importation process, the same process of due diligence in assessing the cars condition and roadworthiness should be followed including a visual inspection and a UK Car History Check from a specialist website such as myvehicle.ie


By accurately calculating the costs, considering any available relief or exemptions, and seeking professional guidance, you can navigate the process of importing a car into Ireland with confidence and avoid any costly mistakes. 


Justin Kavanagh
Justin Kavanagh is a recognised leader in automotive intelligence and vehicle data supply to the entire motor industry. He has almost 20 years experience in building systems from the ground up. As the Managing Director of Vehicle Management System, he understands the need and importance of trustworthy and reliable vehicle history and advice to both the trade and the public.
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